December 15, 2010

When it comes to goal setting...size DOES matter!

This is a great idea, but a
little overwhelming.
I'm sure it doesn't come as news when I say that goal setting is one of the most important things you can do before embarking on a behaviour change. From exercise and eating less crap to quitting smoking and keeping the house cleaner...it's all change and a plan for change may be the difference between success and failure. At the same time, one of the most popular mistakes folks make as they set up their goals is choosing goals that are too big....even if they appear really tiny.

For example, someone who wants to lose 20lbs may start out on the right foot, but soon will find the motivation to eat less and exercise more is taken over by the glimpse of a chip bag in the cupboard or the fabulous dessert menu in front of them. "We" negotiate with ourselves that we were soooo good this week eating our veggies that we deserve this triple chocolate caramel cream pie (I just made that up, but it sounds delish).  So we stand in front of our mountain of goals only to fall back into old behaviours due to the intimidation of the size of it. Don't worry.....this ends well.

What if I told you that it's the size of your goals that may be standing in the way of your success? Would that be something that would interest you (note my salesperson tone...)? So let's take the popular post-holiday-season-goal of eating less crap and more vegetables as I outline some of the most common mistakes made throughout the process.

Mistake #1 - The "All or None" Goal
Instead of proclaiming your abstinence from all crap (that's the technical term for junk food), why not start smaller. Begin by writing down your favorite crap and start by removing one crappy item a week. Sure, this may take 6 months depending upon your list, but it won't send you into a sugar crash and into a box of chocolates. Start very very very slowly!

Even with our best intentions, we set ourselves up to fail
when we focus on the mountain.
Mistake #2 - Focusing on the Mountain
When "we" create a goal of weight loss (for example) we usually focus on the absolute loss (i.e. 10 lbs). It is noted in the literature that a healthy weight loss is only 1-1.5 lbs per week (um...ya...thanks for that Biggest Loser).  So why not start small. Proclaim a weight loss of 1lb for the next two weeks (I always like to see people underestimate rather than overestimate - it builds a sense of mastery over the goal achievement).  There is nothing wrong with stating a long term goal of 10lbs, but it is necessary to break it down into tiny little steps to avoid focusing on the mountain ahead.

Mistake #3 - The "All is Lost" Mentality
As I mentioned in my last post (see last post 'cause it was riveting, thought provoking brilliance), with behaviour change success there has to be failures (or lapses in behaviour). Many people, when experiencing a lapse, tend to throw up their arms and quit. Or worse, they dive into a bag of Cheezies followed by a pepperoni pizza chaser (not that there's anything wrong with that). When lapsing into old behaviours...don't panic! Enjoy the lapse, acknowledge the lapse, and wake up the next morning re-affirming your commitment to the change process. All is NOT lost...you have just come out of a learning experience and will now apply it to your future barriers.

Mistake #4 - Failure to Learn from a Lapse
....which brings me to my next mistake. Lapses are opportunities to learn. If we fail to learn, we will do the same thing over and over and over again. If you find yourself making love to a Duncan Hines chocolate cake with vanilla icing (not that I would know anything about that...) pick your journal, notebook, or paper up and record the reasons behind it. Perhaps you were bored, perhaps you had a crappy day, perhaps you had enough of those nasty PMS hormones in you to blow up a small country (not that I would know anything about that either...). The most important thing is the learning that comes from the failure AND the knowledge that slip ups are a normal part of the process.


When creating a New Year's Resolution there are a few suggestions I can offer....
1. Write it down.
2. Write the long term (or mountain) goal at the top of the page.
3. Brainstorm all the things that you need to do to get there (everything..don't leave anything out).
4. Choose only one of those things and grab another piece of paper.
5. Place THAT goal on top of your page.
6. Brainstorm all the things that you need to do to get there.
7. Choose one from that list....that is your short term goal.
8. Now create an action plan that will detail how you will achieve that goal.
9. Create a list of potential barriers to that goal achievement
                                        10. Create a strategy for each barrier (a plan to overcome your barrier).

Ten steps may be daunting, but I'm hopeful it won't freak anyone out.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of planning when starting a behaviour change. The media and many other fitness and health professionals will say "Just do it!" and maybe they will motivate someone to change. Unfortunately, this message fails to mention the fine print (Message may be influenced by goal setting, action planning, and insights due to failure).

That's all I got...except boxes and boxes of caramels in my fridge!
K

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